Published Online: May 26, 1999
Published in Print: May 26, 1999, as Children & Families

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Child Care: California's supply of preschool and child-care slots is not keeping pace with the state's rapidly increasing population of children, according to a study.

In addition, finding access to a preschool or child-care center has a lot to do with where a family lives, says the report from Policy Analysis for California Education, a research group at the University of California, Berkeley, and Stanford University.

Parents in Los Angeles, for example, are half as likely as those in San Francisco and other northern California counties to find an opening.

Los Angeles County has 13 slots for every 100 preschool-age children, compared with 27 slots in San Francisco County.

And within counties, the report says, preschools are unevenly distributed between affluent and blue-collar communities, with wealthier families having more access to child care.

"Child Care Indicators 1998" is a joint effort by PACE and the California Child Care Resource and Referral Network. In addition to using data gathered by the child-care network, the researchers used figures from the U.S. Census Bureau and the state department of social services.

The report comes as thousands of single mothers, because of changes in the federal welfare law, are entering the labor force and looking for child care.

Expanding access to high-quality preschool programs is critical, the researchers say, because of the positive effects such services have been shown to have on children's early learning and school readiness.

Welfare Study: The University of Chicago, in cooperation with several other universities, has embarked on a four-year, $19 million study on how welfare reform affects children and families.

The study of 2,800 low-income families--half of whom receive public assistance--is being conducted in Chicago, Boston, and San Antonio. Researchers are hoping to collect more detailed information about children's development than is included in most household surveys.

In conducting the study, the researchers will take a close look at the preschool children in the sample, focusing on the important people in their lives, including both parents and their child-care providers. The children will be observed in their child-care settings and videotaped interacting with their mothers.

In addition, 200 more families receiving welfare benefits are being observed closely by field workers, who will attend such meetings as job interviews and visits to welfare offices.

A combination of government and private grants is supporting the study.

--Linda Jacobson ljacobs@epe.org

Vol. 18, Issue 37, Page 11

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